Waterfront Watering Holes – Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

Lake Minnetonka

Vann Restaurant

Hidden in plain sight in Spring Park, Vann (above) surprised many when it showed up on the James Beard Award long list, but not its fans. They knew that the intimate room, the incredible wine list, and the thoughtful and creative dishes from chef Erik Skaar are something to be lauded. Big windows let you watch the bay from comfier and air-conditioned seats. 4016 Shoreline Dr., Spring Park, 952-381-9042

Gianni’s Steakhouse

Wayzata may be home to many new restaurants, but sometimes you have to go old school. The patio in front of Gianni’s is where you’ll spot the well-heeled enjoying a martini, a steak, and the famous spun salad. Summer Sundays are a thing in this lake town. It’s when everyone comes back from the cabin and goes out for dinner, making it a fun night up and down Lake Street. 635 E. Lake St., Wayzata, 952-404-1100

Licks Unlimited

Excelsior’s favorite seasonal ice cream shop is now run by the family’s next generation. The kids have brought in new flavors and fresh merch and made eating ice cream more sustainable with compostable cups and spoons. Grab your scoop and head down to the city docks to watch the boats and merrymakers. 31 Water St., Excelsior, 952-474-4791

Stillwater/St. Croix

Papa’s Rooftop at Water Street Inn

The historic inn has a new rooftop patio with spectacular views spanning the the whole town of Stillwater and the iconic lift bridge. Tuck in for pizzas, pastas, and salads, or just get some snacks and a bottle from the nice wine list. 101 S. Water St., 651-493-6000

Stillwater Proper

Support local at this Main Street tavern where the bar is fully stocked with only spirits made in Minnesota: From your favorite city distilleries like Tattersall and Norseman to bottles from outstate pioneers such as Vikre, RockFilter, and Far North, your drink will have a distinctly Minnesota flavor. Modern bar food plays along, with local mushroom cioppino and a hot chicken sandwich with Cry Baby Craig’s sauce. 227 S. Main St., 651-342-2053

P.D. Pappy’s

P.D. Pappy’s (below) packs them in all summer, from motorcyclists to boaters to anyone looking for a Big Brutus burger and some live music (no cover charge ever). This patio is so close to the river that when the St. Croix swells, it’s actually IN the river. Nobody minds. 422 E. Mulberry St., 651-430-1147

Other Waterside Spots

Charlie’s on Prior

With a lighthouse beckoning you from both land and water, Charlie’s is the hub of summer life on Prior Lake. A large dining room up top pulls in the families for American tavern fare, while three bars on-site make sure everyone is having fun. Boat up; there are courtesy docks and dockside food delivery if you want to get back on the water. Live music plays most weekends during peak summer. 3950 Green Heights Tr. SW, Prior Lake, 952-226-5253

Birch’s on the Lake

Upstairs, the supper club rejects the idea that you need dark and clubby vibes, instead embracing the floor-to-ceiling windows that face the lake. Downstairs, the brewhouse action flows out to one of the best small-lake patios in the metro. Wherever you sit, you can enjoy creative and freshly brewed beers alongside the signature Buckhorn fried chicken. Birch’s loves a party, so watch for live music and theme nights all summer. 1310 Wayzata Blvd. W., Long Lake, 952-473-7373

Chef Shack Bay City

After your refined weekend meal at the Chef Shack outpost in WI, you’ll probably need to stretch your legs. Dine on the tasting menu and sip all the good wine, then walk down the block to Lake Pepin Boulevard along the river. Better yet, grab a spot at the nearby Bay City Campground and make a whole weekend of it. 6379 Main St., Bay City, Wisc., 715-594-3060

Mizu Japanese

Of course you can whoop it up with everyone else on the docks in downtown White Bear Lake, but if you’re looking to enjoy your night just off the party zone, consider Mizu. The small Japanese eatery near the water has a little deck on which you might enjoy gyoza dumplings, roasted hamachi collar, pork belly ramen, and plenty of sushi. The creative rolls and fresh sashimi here are tops in the north metro. 4475 Lake Ave. S., White Bear Lake, 651-653-4888

Lunch with a Side of Shoreline

Lola’s Lakehouse (below) has spent 14 years on the lake, and all of them have involved good times. The boat-up deck is the most popular place to meet friends and neighbors for fresh oysters and firecracker shrimp. Happy hours are legendary, not just for the under-$10 menu but for the signature spicy margarita and the house bootleg mix. 318 E. Lake St., Waconia, 952-442-4954

City Water

+ Sea Salt Eatery / Waiting in line is part of the summer fun. Order a drink and make the best of it. Water to Watch: Minnehaha Falls. What to Eat: Crawfish po’boy

+ Bread and Pickle / Your favorite food stop for music and movies in the band shell. Water to Watch: Lake Harriet. What to Eat: Seared walleye sandwich with dill tartar sauce

+ Sandcastle / Chef Doug Flicker runs this sandy summer outpost. Water to Watch: Lake Nokomis. What to Eat: The Dog Flicker hot dog with kimchi

+ Dock and Paddle / Live music and a covered deck overlooking the lake make this a sure bet. Water to Watch: Como Lake. What to Eat: Caribbean Cuban sandwich with Puerto Rican–style roasted pork 

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